Tuesday, June 29, 2004
First I want to say that I was glad I went, because it was a great experience hearing Moore's voice discuss the film, Nader, etc.. Hassen had saved us seats, which were pretty good seats, but I have one very big bitch to voice. The Green Party people in the back must have been baked out of their minds. EVERY time Michael Moore said something they liked they'd start applauding, which of course filled the room which is built to carry sound...it's a church after all. And OF COURSE Michael Moore was NOT actually in the room (you dumbass hippy stoners!) and OF COURSE he didn't pause for applause, and we missed SO MUCH of what he had to say. There would be this deafening applause, and it would stop, in time to hear something like, "...as we know about Nader." What about Nader?
But Moore read an e-mail from an embarrassed nonvoter who saw the new film, and has sworn to vote for the first time.
He read another e-mail from a Republican with a grumpy tone, and the guy said that he went to see what the film was all about, and walked out of the theater a changed man. He says he will NOT vote for Bush, and thanks Michael Moore for this. (did Michael Moore say he was going to interview this guy Hassen?)
This event was put together by MoveOn.org, and of course the focus of the night wasn't so much the film, but the film's impact on voting. So Moore and MoveOn are starting a nationwide campaign to get folks to the voting polls. Carpools and rides for the elderly, things like that. And Moore's big challenge is that each of us adopt 5 non-voters and work them till they WANT to vote.
Hassen, you said something last night I found interesting. You said that seeing Fahrenheit 911 was a relief, that it was making it easier in the sense that the information was circulating, that you didn't feel like you had to convince people all the time about what was going on. The sense of solidarity in the air, and now we can work on fighting together, is how I walked away with what you said.
Mary Kalyna was there with us, and she had action alert flyers from the Global Women's Strike about what we can all do to help "stop the rape and torture of Iraqi women and US servicewomen by US military personnel, and women in US prisons." We were helping her hand them out, and most people were interested and wanted to know more about the Global Womens Strike. But there was one older man and his wife who disturbed me. I handed them the flyer (handed it to her, since she was the one who made eye contact). They looked it over together, and handed it back. I took it back without questioning them, then the old man said, "We're here to defeat Bush!"
(me) "Yeah, okay."
(him) "Getting rid of him will change a lot of these problems."
(me) "Women won't be raped anymore if Bush gets elected?"
(him) "Bush is the reason we're in Iraq."
(me) "I know that, I know that. But the war won't magically vanish just by electing Kerry."
(him) "But Kerry will straighten things like this out."
They walked away after that. Now, I KNOW that this old man is not holding any kind of general consensus, at least, I certainly hope not. But I wanted to share this, because it was so weird, and disturbing, but also because it's important to share this sort of conversation to help keep us all vigilant that no one --even in much smaller ways-- gets to seeing things as too black and white that we'd believe merely voting gets the job done.
I really do hope that this energy going into the next few months doesn't fall apart after the election. That old man was REALLY old, and maybe for him, this was his way of saying that voting is all he feels up for doing. Which is fine, but it would be great to take all this steam being built to get rid of Bush, and to then use it to get Kerry FINALLY pointed in the right direction for this country.
Last night I dreamt (probably due to meeting this old man) that an old man was dying, and I was in the hospital to visit Gil Ott, and the old man was saying that he wanted to vote. And I said that the election was months away, and that if he wanted to vote that he had to hold on until November. Then he told me that if you're dying you're allowed to vote ahead of time, and that that's how Bush won the last election, because he tricked dying old folks like himself into voting. How did he do that, I asked the old man. "He promised us life!" What a weird dream.
Monday, June 28, 2004
They also sell Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States on the first table you see upon entry. There's a subversive shop worker in the Constitution Center. Subversive like Franklin. Subversive like Paine.
- Frank Sherlock
Sunday, June 27, 2004
thanks for letting us know Tom
you've always had much to share on him with us
The film is remarkable, and if you've now seen it, you know what I mean. Moore's ability to equally mix invaluable information and insight with real human emotion puts this film in a class of its own, to use an old adage.
Leaving the theater, I had the sense that things really can turn out all right. Even when confronting the many who will try to convince me Michael Moore is a sham, like that woman in the film who said, "This is all staged!" and the mother Moore had been interviewing made it VERY fucking clear that it was in fact NOT staged. I remember one student waving a copy of the Wall Street Journal at the microphone at Penn when Michael Moore gave a talk about Bowling For Columbine. The student said that the article said that he had staged the scene in the film about the bank that gives you a shotgun when you open an account. Moore laughed, and said, calmly, "Yeah, right. First of all, there's a certified fire arms sales certificate on the wall in that shot. I'd be in federal prison if I had forged such a document. The other thing is, do you REALLY believe I built a bank to shoot that scene? Just because the Wall Street Journal says something, doesn't mean it's true. I'll give you the address of that bank, and you can go visit it on spring break."
We're fortunate to have this man making films. And it truly felt good, walking out of the theater, knowing that we are allowed to see it, and to push the numbers of people to get in there and also see it. The more who do, then the more we can share in our understanding about HOW MUCH we stand to lose if we DON'T somehow manage to be here for each other. Frank Sherlock said to me, "this film is a gift," and I couldn't agree more.
And I'll say this, I'm glad it's Michael Moore's film, because he REALLY gets the poor and working poor, no matter what race. On television news, and that documentary ABOUT BAGHDAD, the soldiers have no background, no past to frame them in. They're always in their camouflage like some magician lifted them out of the dust. I'd like to see the assholes in the audience who were making fun of the soldiers in ABOUT BAGHDAD watch this new Michael Moore film. Moore gives these kids space to prove to the world that they're people who care about their families and friends, and how few their life choices have been. And how military recruiters feed these young minds lies to get them to sign.
Janet Mason has such a story, an army recruiter who nearly talked her into joining in Levittown. Her father and mother at work, and the recruiter slyly asking her what her dreams for her future were. She said she wanted to be a photographer. "Oh well! We need photographers!" She nearly signed her life away. Luckily her mother intervened, made the lies clear. And people can say, "Oh, how ignorant these kids must be to believe this!" Yeah, imagine what middle and upper middle class ignorance of poverty is capable of doing.
But compassion from knowledge is what this new film really can offer those who see it. The film made me contemplative. It made Nail CRAZY! I love her to pieces, but she got into one of her wild woman states, leaping around, yelling out "BUSH IS GONNA LOSE! HE'S GONNA FUCKING LOSE MAN! CONRAD! HE'S GONNA MOTHERFUKCING LOSE MAN!"
I suggested we walk up to the new constitution center before I had to go to work. Nail was looking forward to the presidential action figure dolls in the gift shop I told her about. On the way to the center, Nail was asking all the tourists outside Independence Mall, "Welcome to the birth of American independence man! Hey, have you seen Fahrenheit 911? No? Well, if you REALLY LOVE this country, get there! It's playing JUST DOWN the street man!"
My favorite conversation she had was with a park ranger:
"Hey man! Did you see Fahrenheit 911 yet?"
"Fahrenheit 911, the new Michael Moore film."
"Ah, nah. I heard it about it though."
"Yeah? You gonna see it man?"
"Ah, I don't know."
"You don't know? Do you love this country?"
"Huh? What does that have to do--"
"--what does that have to do with it!? Everything man!"
"What d'you mean?"
"It's for REAL Americans man! Americans who love and believe in this country!"
"Bush is doing an okay job!"
"Yeah, so we should be in Iraq?"
"We rid the world of a tyrant!"
"Yeah man, so why aren't you over there fighting? What's with the park ranger job man?"
"I've got kids--"
"--OH YEAH! Sure man, like you'd be there if you were single."
"Yeah, whatever man, I got your number man!"
There were several other memorable conversations with strangers about the film. One older couple liked Nail very much, asking her what her tattoos meant to her. The four of us met in the gift shop, and we all took a long look at the bobble-head dolls. I wanted everyone to look at the positioning of the hands. Both Laura and W. Bush have their arms folded over the solar plexus, you know, that body language that says, "I'm standing firm, and I don't care WHAT you think!" Jesse Jackson has hands folded, fingers crossed and at his groin, the kind of pacifist, reverence you'd expect. Jimmy Carter is waving and the most relaxed looking. Hillary Clinton is the one I question the most. She has one arm up, her thumb and pointer finger making that, "It's this small" kind of gesture. Hmm, really? Is Bill a grower, not a shower? Nail always turns such conversations into how big she'd like her cock, if she could have one. And of course, big surprise, she wants it big, and pierced.
Tomorrow night MOVEON.ORG is hosting a national on-line meeting with Michael Moore. In Philadelphia, you can go to the First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Street at 8pm. Everyone else can check out the MOVEON.ORG website for local information: www.moveonpac.org
I'd love to hear what others feel about the new movie,
Friday, June 25, 2004
Jen Hofer wrote to me that Carl's last words, or nearly-last words were these:
"A hospice worker had come by in the morning to set things up with them & she was asking carl if he knew what day it was (he didn't); or what month (he thought it was september); or what year (he didn't know); & then she asked him who the president is. He hesitated & barbara was thinking that maybe he didn't know that either, but after a pause he said "Bush -- that bastard!"
John Trantor has posted a special section on Jacket 25, on Carl Rakosi, which features an interview Olivier Brossard and I conducted with Rakosi in March 2001, which was published in July/Aug. issue of The American Poetry Review featuring Rakosi on the cover.
Click here to listen to Carl Rakosi's 99th birthday celebration at the Kelly Writers House on October 30, 2002 (an audio cast).
The site is kind of a tease since you see that Schwartz has interviewed so many first-rate writers, but most of the interviews aren't linked! Still, the show looks great so bravo to Leonard.
I just downloaded the Fanny Howe tanscript (posted there) which is an excellent interview with Howe.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
I had visions of name-rings & New Yorker laces as we came upon the linoleum square that served as a dance floor for the breakdance kids. The dancers were probably just being conceived while Slick Rick & MC Shan were on the radio, so this old-head memory is just history to them. It was late in the day, & there was visible fatigue in their head spins & windmills. Dancing is the most multi-cultural of the hiphop arts, & the group reflected this demographic. They were black, white, latino, asian & combinations of all of the above. The boys seemed to hog the tiles, while the b-girls just popped on the sidelines for the most part. It was frustrating to watch them maneuvering to the floor, only to be banished by some guy's wild, flailing legs.
I give them credit for breaking to Phil Moore Brown, who was pretty much a rock band w/ some instruments missing. Not that the band's music is lacking. They were actually missing personnel, but they made due. The DJs that followed were hot, especially the Illvibe Collective & Botany 500.
The first person I recognized at the event was mural artist Mike Smash, who was being chastised by an earnest woman who took issue with the violent images on his T-shirts for sale. I felt responsible, since he designed the grenade shirt w/ "I will blow up" across the back for me. The woman went on a little long, but she had positive intentions, so... what can you do? If you're in South Philly, check out Mike's mural that borders the Hawthorne Center (12th & Carpenter). And if you're in the neighborhood, you can find his "Inheritors of the Dragon" mural around the corner(11th & Washington) on the side of Pho'75.
The fence surrounding the playground was covered in tarp, as grafitti artists tagged up every available inch of marker space. They were mostly kids w/ a genuine paranoia of being spied on by "ANTI", shorthand for the Philadelphia Anti-Graffitti Network. The vacant lot across the street was sectioned, where the Philly Legends (artists from the 80's & 90's)worked their ladders & spray cans into a series of murals that was fascinating to watch & intoxicating to breathe- so many paint fumes in such a small area. These guys were veterans, & were fielding questions & sharing techniques w/the younger writers.
Kice Of Course began his MC set, which left us flat. If was the perfect time to break for tacos. We got got back to catch the last act- a dual set w/ Chief Kamachi & Reef The Lost Cauze. At least one of these guys will definitely break in the next year or so. I've seen Reef a number of times in the last few years, & he keeps getting better & better- the best freestyle in Philly. But I never saw/heard Kamachi, & this guy was unbelievably tight & versatile. He kept apologizing for slip-ups nobody even noticed, claiming he was up for 24 hours in the studio & came directly to the BBQ. Mid-set, an old-lady food vendor interrupted the set w/ her hair net & apron on & asked for the mike. Kamachi obliged, & the woman started screaming for her grandson. "Thomas, get your ass up to this stage & give me my money before I whoop your ass!!!" Thomas did the smart thing & remained MIA, & we called it a day.
My only complaint- no barbeque at the BBQ! What gives?
- Frank Sherlock
Here are three poems by Mr. Rakosi:
A MUSTACHE DRAWN ON CAPTAIN PATTERSON
I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts
the Vincents hit us tonight.
The village chief just took off,
claiming he had business in Danang.
I'd like to take off myself,
all the way to Flint, Michigan.
For openers I'd show up at the airport
with a big sign, GET THE MARINES OUT OF VIETNAM.
Under that in smaller letters:
starting with me.
THE COUNTRY SINGER
There ain't nothin special about me.
Everybody knows I'm too fat
and my legs are too short.
I'm just a middle-aged cornball
with a loud voice
and a drinking problem.
It's a funny thing,
when I'm on stage
all I do is act like me.
But I can act me
like a son of a bitch!
TO A COLLIE PUP
Nobody had to show you
where the sun is
or that my back
could serve the same purpose
as a tree.
Why, you are hardly old enough
to know the difference
between your tail and a shadow,
yet the warm radiator
and your bowl of water
are already old friends.
The way you look up at me
with a saint in each eye
one would never suspect
that you chase birds and chickens
and steal stale bread
from the neighbor's trashcan.
Lay off, you beggar
I just fed you
and took you walking.
into the autumn leaves.
Nuzzle and roll
as if there were nothing
in the whole wide world
How is it that you play
with my shoelace
and understand so well
how to love me?
For this you shall have
the key to my bedroom
and the degree
of master of arts.
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Edgar Allan Poe and he would know.
"The Empty House Tour"
June 19th, and 20th at 2:00 pm
RSVP TO 215-597-8780
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
532 N. 7th St. Philadelphia, PA
PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY ARTICLE on The Empty House.
Friday, June 11, 2004
For fourteen seconds, during a commanding performance of "Amazing Grace" at the National Cathedral, a noisy and disturbing static was seen, heard, and felt on wide-screen televisions across the nation.
The frantic static was none other than Mr. Porter's disembodied shade.
Today, Bern Porter's vexed spirit is remembered in those fourteen seconds of static, which Borges called infinity, as fans, friends and foes join together to sing poet Lee Ann Brown's "Amazing Amazing Grace" fourteen times.
(posted by CAConrad)
Thursday, June 10, 2004
The firing of the air traffic controllers, winnable nuclear war, recallable nuclear missiles, trees that cause pollution, Elliott Abrams lying to Congress, ketchup as a vegetable, colluding with Guatemalan thugs, pardons for F.B.I. lawbreakers, voodoo economics, budget deficits, toasts to Ferdinand Marcos, public housing cutbacks, redbaiting the nuclear freeze movement, James Watt.
Getting cozy with Argentine fascist generals, tax credits for segregated schools, disinformation campaigns, "homeless by choice," Manuel Noriega, falling wages, the HUD scandal, air raids on Libya, "constructive engagement" with apartheid South Africa, United States Information Agency blacklists of liberal speakers, attacks on OSHA and workplace safety, the invasion of Grenada, assassination manuals, Nancy's astrologer.
Drug tests, lie detector tests, Fawn Hall, female appointees (8 percent), mining harbors, the S&L scandal, 239 dead U.S. troops in Beirut, Al Haig "in control," silence on AIDS, food-stamp reductions, Debategate, White House shredding, Jonas Savimbi, tax cuts for the rich, "mistakes were made."
Michael Deaver's conviction for influence peddling, Lyn Nofziger's conviction for influence peddling, Caspar Weinberger's five-count indictment, Ed Meese ("You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime"), Donald Regan (women don't "understand throw-weights"), education cuts, massacres in El Salvador.
"The bombing begins in five minutes," $640 Pentagon toilet seats, African- American judicial appointees (1.9 percent), Reader's Digest, C.I.A.-sponsored car-bombing in Lebanon (more than eighty civilians killed), 200 officials accused of wrongdoing, William Casey, Iran/Contra. "Facts are stupid things," three-by-five cards, the MX missile, Bitburg, S.D.I., Robert Bork, naps, Teflon.
Today, a coffin in the Capitol building. Tomorrow a face on Mount Rushmore.
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
For the next two weekends, I will be conducting a tour of the house called "The Empty House Tour." (The title is from a Sherlock Holmes story influenced by Poe.) The tour is a part of the Institute of Contemporary Art's summer show called: The Big Nothing.
The tour focuses upon the empty space of the house, Poe, and the former owner of the house Colonel Richard Gimbel(foremost collectors of Poe manuscripts and artifacts and heir to the Gimbel Dept. Store family).
Poe wrote many of his most famous stories here, including "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Pit and the Pendulum," and "The Black Cat."
A special thanks to Emily Missner who assisted in the research for the tour and especially information about Colonel Richard Gimbel.
The dates and times for the tour are: June 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th at 2:00 pm each day.
The tours are free, but please RSVP to reserve a spot at (215) 597-8780.
Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam
Now that Classic Coke
And Old Coke and New Coke
And fresh horse meat
I've taken to eating cob
webs for their high
And the slipping feeling
they give my gullet
as they go down
Now that Nancy Reagan
is in charge
And both Maimie and Beth
And hairpins are quite passé
I've taken to playing polo
for its horsey risk
and the fun of falling off
as I charge about
Now that the price of silver
And the dollar is falling fast
And McDonald's has hit
I've taken to painting
chairs a very pal
Thinking I'm making a
contribution to husbandry
June 6, 1988
Late last night I went to some of the links you posted to listen to B. Porter reading a piece called "The Last Acts of St. Fuckyou" -- it is nothing short of brilliant, even when he falters the piece never falters in its original energy, art, and wicket intentions.
It's the kind of art borne from a crushing tension that was Reagan's pervasive and aggressive likeability, when unreality becomes a "hard-nosed" fact and our greater sanity is on the line.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004
in his home in Belfast, Maine
his extraordinary life, from helping to build the atomic bomb, to leaving the project when he realized what he was doing, to spending every last penny he owned to help rebuild Nagasaki and Hiroshima...to never touching numbers again. to turning the angle to poetry, for life.
when Sheila Holtz first moved to Maine to edit the bi-monthly Bern Porter International, an old friend of mine was upset about Sheila's decision. he had no interest in reading Porter's poems or reading his magazine, "just THINK of all those lives destroyed because of his work! fuck his poetry!" but i disagreed then, and will always disagree with that argument.
at one point Sheila Holtz and i spoke of possibly interviewing Bern for PhillySound, but Bern was phobic and ignorant of technology, deliberately so after WWII
in fact he never quite understood that when i called his house in Maine to speak to Sheila, that i was paying for the call, and he'd yell, "THIS IS COSTING ME DAMMIT!" and he'd hang up on me. sometimes it took me more than a week to get ahold of Sheila.
this is not something i'm sharing in order to laugh at Bern. i'm telling it because the man was a genius, but because of the greed and power in some men in this world, this genius was used in ways the man had never intended, and left him sick with its results, to shun his own intellect of numbers...
with the story of Bern Porter, no one need ever wonder again what the strength of poetry can be
here are some online links to his work, and life:
Thursday, June 03, 2004
This profile on Edith Grossman has recently been published.
Preparing for the interview I pulled out my Garica Marquez books to see which ones Grossman had translated. In one of the books, Collected Novellas, which is three short novels by Marquez, I was surprised and alarmed to discover that there was no translator acknowledgement anywhere.
Grossman said she did not translate those novellas, that it was Gregory Rabasa. She said however, "It’s one of the things I insist on in the contracts that I get. My name on the cover."
As we spoke I mentioned one of the novellas in the book "No One Writes the Colonel," which I always loved. I said it had one the best last lines of any story I ever read, but as we spoke I couldn't exactly recall the line. Grossman seemlessly filled-in-the blank saying, "At the end of that novella he’s waiting and waiting and waiting for his pension and it never comes and his wife says: ‘How we going to live? What are we going to eat?’ And he says, ‘Shit.’ And that’s the end; that’s the end. It’s incredible, it’s incredible, what a brilliant book."
For space reasons the above conversation didn't make it into the profile. Another outtake was my question about writers Grossman thinks should be better known in English. The two writers she mentioned were Álvaro Mutis and Mayra Montero.
Grossman said, "Álvaro Mutis, who has won almost every prize Europe has to give and has won the Newstat prize at the University of Oklahoma. He writes like no one else, no one else writes like him. He’s done seven novellas, I’ve translated them and I think he should be as certainly as well known as Garcia Marquez."
She continued, "And Mayra Montero -- she’s younger than the writers of "the Boom," they are all in the late 60’s and 70’s, and she’s 50ish. She is really the important younger writer in Latin America. And I’d love to see her get more press. She’s a terrific writer."
(My own translation recommendation in this area is Jen Hofer's bilingual anthology of emerging women poets from Mexico: Sin puertas visibles (No Visible Doors).)
((Thanks hassen for the birthday wishes!))
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
*happy bday, Tom! can't wait for your Poe tour!
**anyone going to the Carrboro Poetry Fest?